The sun was yet to greet us as the clock would soon struck 5. I’d spent many early mornings out and about during European Winters. Though lugging my travel pack to my Uber across the sidewalk that morning, I knew Edinburgh’s chill was bidding me a final farewell with a vengeance.
“Don’t worry, you will climatize,” – I had heard a thousand times before setting out on this journey. 12 months later, my toes are still begging for the Australian sun!
In April 2016, my University presented me with the opportunity to take my classroom to the United Arab Emirates, then to Italy. Which then tempted me to continue the following semesters at an overseas institution. It seemed like a lifetime ago that I had grasped that opportunity, and it was.
400 days of travel, of growth, change, and independence. 400 solitary days, and of nights 17,000 kms away from familiarity.
Familiarity – a close acquaintance with or knowledge of someone or something. I’ve watched what is classed as my familiar be rewritten time and again as I changed my path in 2017. As I moved to the UK, as I ditched my studies abroad, and as I decided to just travel and work online. I often wonder what is familiar to me now, especially back home. Life doesn’t pause when you’re not around – funny that.
It’s an odd feeling having to acknowledge that while you’ve watched your siblings grow since birth, they will continue to do so whilst evading your watch.
Though regardless of how much they’ve changed, they still knew how to fill my heart with love as I discovered when I surprised them with my return home. I think the most moving sound is when you hear that crack in a loved ones’ voice as they’re about to cry. That initial embrace that seemed to fill a void that time had dug.
At first, it felt like my family and I were getting to know each other again. Though it took me a while to realise that my family and friends had changed no more than any given year, and that returning to this unchanged place was what taught me the ways in which I myself have altered.
I’m not sure why I had expected any different, because at the end of the day, returning home was bound not to be the same as never leaving.
It’s difficult to come to terms with returning home only to then continue life in an entirely different way than you had before. I visited 19 countries on this trip, and was exposed to a plethora of diverse culture, religion, and ways of life, which undoubtedly evolved my attitudes, values and beliefs.
Because of this, I now feel like I can’t relate to what my old life was on many levels. Things that I may have previously tolerated have become intolerable, I have a new-found confidence of voicing what previously remained unspoken, and I’ve discovered things that are no longer worth my time and energy. Most of all, I have learned more about my own country and hometown by leaving it. It has become apparent that distance and difference is what makes travel so powerful in evolving our perceptions of our world.
Coming home, you see that home is still the same, but you are not, and that changes a lot. You realise that your definition of home has shifted. And although this town will forever hold a place in my heart full of fond memories, that place in my heart has loosened to make room for what I have found love in abroad.
For the moment, I know I have years of more time away from this place. Thus, I want my family and friends to know that the little time I may spend with you here and there, is worth to me as much as the thousands of hours I have or will spend exploring abroad.
– Haylee x